Tag Archives: Ellen Clegg

More details on the Globe’s tweaked-up opinion section

The Boston Globe’s interim editorial-page editor, Ellen Clegg, wasn’t ready to go public about this when we spoke last week. But this week the paper announced a project called “Opinion Reel,” which will run “short documentaries with a point of view” submitted by “local professionals, students, and smartphone auteurs.”

“You could even be Ken Burns and we’ll take a look,” Clegg says.

It’s an intriguing idea, and it will be interesting to see what gets posted. I’ve already made sure our journalism students at Northeastern know about it.

• As I wrote last week, the redesign of the opinion pages in print can’t be looked at in isolation. Instead, the two-page print spread should be seen as kind of a “best of” taken from the larger online opinion section. I’ve heard several people say they were afraid the pages were being dumbed down, a concern that makes sense only if you’re still focused on print. (People: It’s 2015.)

Case in point: On Wednesday, as the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev death-penalty case was being turned over to the jury, the Globe posted a commentary by Boston College Law School professor Kari Hong arguing that the time has come to bring back firing squads. Her piece does not appear in the print edition.

As Mark Twain said of Wagner’s music, Hong’s essay is better than it sounds. Hong, an opponent of capital punishment who’s represented clients on death row, makes a strong case that the firing squad would be more humane than lethal injection.

“If jurors had to choose between giving someone life in prison — without the possibility of parole — or putting them in front of a firing squad,” she concludes, “I have no doubt that many would opt for the former.”

The Globe drags its opinion pages into the 21st century

Of all the hoary traditions of 20th-century newspapering, few seem quite so hoary as the editorial and op-ed pages. Mixing editorials (unsigned because they represent the institutional views of the newspaper), cartoons, columns by staff members and outside contributors, and letters from readers, the opinion pages often seem anachronistic in the digital age — a bit too formal, more than a bit too predictable and way too slow off the mark.

Starting today, The Boston Globe is attempting to bring that nearly half-century-old construct up to date. No longer is the left-hand page labeled “Editorial” and the right “Opinion.” Instead, both pages are unified under “Opinion.” Content — some of it new, some familiar — is free-floating.

Much of it is what you’d expect: a pro-Olympics editorial (sigh) as well as staff columns by Joan Vennochi and Dante Ramos. Some is new: a roundup of opinion from elsewhere called “What They’re Saying,” a very short take by staff columnist Joanna Weiss on a much-delayed skate park, and an amalgamation of letters, tweets and online comments rebranded as “Inbox.” (The changes are outlined here.)

“You could look at this as a meal where you want snackable content and meatier content and the occasional dessert,” says interim editorial-page editor Ellen Clegg. Some of the ideas, she adds, were developed by experimenting with the opinion content of Capital, the Globe’s Friday political section.

Globe Opinion pages

Regular columns have been cut from 700 to 600 words. But op-ed-page editor Marjorie Pritchard says that the new Opinion section will also be more flexible, with pieces running from 400 to 1,200 or more words. (Coincidentally, this article in Digiday, in which Kevin Delaney of Quartz calls for the demise of the standard 800-word article, is the talk of Twitter this week.)

The Globe’s opinion operation has been on a roll under Clegg and her predecessor, Peter Canellos (now executive editor of Politico), with Kathleen Kingsbury winning a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing last month and Ramos being named a finalist in 2014. But the look and feel of the pages haven’t changed much since the 1970s.

And then there’s the whole matter of print in the digital age. Globe editor Brian McGrory recently told his staff that a print-first mentality still prevails, writing that “too many of us — editors, reporters, photographers, graphic artists — think of just print too often.”

McGrory does not run the opinion pages, as both he and Clegg report directly to publisher John Henry. But the redesigned print section, with its careful attention to art and graphics, has the look and feel of a print-first play. In fact, Clegg is pursuing a two-track strategy — an improved but tightly curated print section and a larger online Opinion site. “Brian as usual captured it beautifully,” Clegg says. “I think that captured the ethos of where we’re all going, where we’re all headed.”

For some time now Clegg herself has been writing an online-only “Morning Opinion Digest” with summaries and links to provocative content elsewhere. Opinion pieces often run online before they appear in print. And some pieces are Web exclusives, such as this commentary by editorial writer Marcela García on the cultural stereotypes surrounding Cinco de Mayo.

Says Pritchard: “We’ve run a lot of online exclusives in the past, and we’re trying to beef that up.” Clegg adds that “we certainly don’t want to shortchange the print reader, but we want to enhance the digital experience. There has to be a balance.”

It was a half-century ago that The New York Times developed the modern op-ed page. Times editorial board member John Oakes, the Ochs-Sulzberger family member who was largely responsible for the idea, once called it “one of the great newspaper innovations of the century,” according to this Jack Shafer piece.

By contrast, the Globe’s new Opinion section should be seen as a modest improvement. But at a time when newspapers, both in print and online, are fighting to maintain their relevance, the Globe deserves credit for trying something new.

Also posted at WGBHNews.org.

Globe to replace g section, Brian McGrory tells staff

Screen Shot 2015-01-01 at 11.59.30 AMThe Boston Globe is replacing its tabloid arts-and-feature section, g, with a standalone full-size Living section later this month, according to a year-end message to the staff from editor Brian McGrory.

Most of McGrory’s message, a copy of which was sent to Media Nation by a kind soul in the Globe newsroom, is a look back at what has been a year of accomplishment for the paper. (McGrory has also written a round-up of his picks for the Globe’s most important stories of 2014.)

McGrory’s superlatives aside, it’s hard to think of a news organization this side of Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post that is expanding its coverage the way the Globe has under the ownership of John Henry. The paper has also been consistently excellent journalistically under McGrory’s watch, and, as he notes, it seems to be paying off in terms of advertising, paid circulation and a growing digital audience.

The full memo is below. But before I get to that, some other Globe news: veteran New Hampshire political reporter James Pindell is returning to the Globe as “a digital-first political reporter and playing a key role in our effort to augment our coverage of the first-in-the-nation contest,” according to an email by Jennifer Peter, the Globe’s metro editor, which someone forwarded to me.

Pindell, whom I’ve known and respected for years, worked most recently for WMUR-TV in New Hampshire, a stint that ended in a minor controversy after he asked U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown an impertinent question that turned out to be based on a mistaken premise. Pindell apologized and briefly disappeared from the air, which suggested an overreaction on management’s part. WMUR’s loss is the Globe’s gain.

Also this week, the departures at the Globe continued. Among those announcing their retirements were columnist Larry Harmon, business reporter Chris Reidy, health writer Deborah Kotz and former Spotlight and higher-education reporter Marcella Bombardieri. Harmon has been an important voice in holding city politicians accountable. I hope interim editorial-page editor Ellen Clegg finds a suitable replacement.

As for g, which was launched under New York Times Co. ownership, I doubt many will miss it. Mrs. Media Nation was a fan, but since we’re digital subscribers except on Sundays we rarely got to see what it looked like in print.

And now (drum roll, please) Brian McGrory’s year-end message to the staff.

Hey all,

Same-old, same-old in 2014, so I’ll be brief.

Wrong again.

We, meaning you, had an extraordinary year by every possible measure, certainly in terms of consistently superb journalism, but also with a driving sense of innovation in the work we produce and the way we present it. This was a landmark year for the Globe, one that I hope gives you a deep sense of pride.

Consider, for a moment, the new initiatives — Address, the absurdly readable Sunday real estate section; Capital, the Friday political section that is equal parts delightful and vital; the stand-alone Business section, which is off to a strong start and is set to improve even more; Crux, the company’s groundbreaking website dedicated to Catholicism around the world, done so well it will serve as a template for future initiatives; a restructured Spotlight Team that is set to produce signature investigative journalism with greater frequency; a stunning stand-alone Living broadsheet section to replace the current g tabloid, debuting the second week of January; the Cape Cod summer initiative; record-setting Business magazines, including the new “Game Changers;” the reintroduction of Score, as beautiful as it is insightful; artfully redesigned Sunday regional sections to the north, south, and west of Boston; and a revitalized Sunday Travel section that has become mandatory reading.

None of this came easy. All of it is vital. What made it possible is the high quality journalism upon which everything new and old is built.

Let’s be honest: 2013 was a tough year to follow in terms of accomplishment. And sitting at Columbia University in May, watching Chris Chinlund, Jen Peter, and Mike Bello accept the Pulitzer Prize on behalf of the entire staff, well, that’s a moment that I’ll forever cherish. I’m not sure Bello ever cradled any of his kids as lovingly as he did that plaque.

But you followed great work with still more great work, even amid the demands of so much new initiative. Mike Rezendes gave voice to those who wouldn’t otherwise have had one with his landmark stories on the inhumane and sometimes deadly treatment of inmates at Bridgewater State Hospital — work that led to immediate, meaningful reform. Likewise in the accountability category, Spotlight produced a searing, three-part series on dangerous student housing conditions in this, the college capital of America, a project that has launched vows for widespread change. Kay Lazar and Shelley Murphy kicked the marijuana dispensary licensing process on its side through their in-depth reporting, forcing the state to scrap its deeply flawed work and start from scratch.

I’d put our 2014 narrative work up against any news organization in the country, and in that regard, I’m specifically thinking of Jenna Russell’s breathtaking account of Michael Bourne and his mother, Peggy, as they battled not only his mental health issues, but a cruelly complicated system that seems to go out of its way not to help. Include there, too, Evan Allen’s heartbreaking story of a Newton father’s quest for justice after his son’s overdose death, Maria Sacchetti’s tense, poignant look at the deaths and recovery efforts along the Mexican border, and of course, Sarah Schweitzer’s extraordinary account of a Woods Hole biologist and his lifelong attempt to save the endangered right whale, a story that was accompanied by a groundbreaking online presentation. There are more, many more.

Day to day, Metro performed an extraordinary public service by driving the heroin epidemic into the public conscience. Business blanketed the single most readable storyline of the year — the Demoulas saga — with expert coverage that drove the plot for months. Photography continued to produce the kind of thoughtful, magnificent images that made readers linger on our pages in awe.

Sports did what our Sports staff always does: It offered the best coverage for the most sophisticated audience of any paper in the nation. Washington produced the deeply reported Power Lines series, along with its consistently probing coverage of two of the most interesting officials in the country — Elizabeth Warren and John Kerry. Living/Arts gave us a record number of colorful front page offerings and, as important, solidified Sunday Arts as one of the most popular and important sections of the Globe. Perhaps that last point is inevitable when you have the all-star roster of critics and writers that we have. The Sunday magazine remains among the most vital aspects of the paper, with consistently sophisticated stories that are devoured by readers.

Our design team was ever bolder in print and online, not only with new sections and sites, but with the front page as well. Our copy editing is ever more meticulous and consistently collaborative. Our graphics are often the envy of the industry, which explains why bigger organizations keep hiring away our directors.

And our digital team has quite literally been transformative, newcomers and veterans, all of whom have banded together to produce an evolving, ambitious namesake site that is a pitch perfect platform for our collective work.

Does any of this matter? Yeah, it does, very much so.

Advertising came in better than expected this year, by no means enough to declare success, but certainly a sign of improvement. In terms of readership, there were many, many weeks in the autumn that saw a net upside in print subscriptions. There are precious few papers that see anything like that. And Bostonglobe.com saw a 34 percent increase in visits and a 26 percent increase in pageviews. We also have more digital-only subscribers than any newspaper in the country outside of the NYT and WSJ, and we’ve begun adding to that number at a strong clip in the last quarter.

I’m way too late to say, “To make a long story short,” right? But please bear with me for one final point.

We can’t let up. To sit still is to beckon defeat, what with the breakneck pace of technology advances and the irrefutable fact that competition continues to lurk all across the web. We need all your creativity, all your ambition, all your brains – all across the enterprise. We also need to take full advantage of an enviable moment. We have committed owners, the Henrys, who value quality over short-term profits, and who believe to their core that the way to make the Globe a self-sustaining enterprise is by thoughtful investment combined with unfailing discipline. We have a CEO, Mike Sheehan, who believes deeply that great journalism is good business. We have a thriving region. We have a robust staff of stellar reporters, editors, and visual journalists, many of the best in the nation. We have all the ingredients in place for profound, durable success.

I’ll set up some times in January to share plans and trade ideas for 2015. Meantime, please take more than a few moments of pride on this New Year’s Eve, for where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are poised to go.

My deepest respect and appreciation to you all.

Brian

Correction: An earlier version of this post described the departures of Larry Harmon, Chris Reidy, Deborah Kotz and Marcella Bombardieri as “buyouts.” That was based on an incorrect assumption on my part. Harmon told me he was not offered a buyout, and I do not know about the other three.

The Globe’s Ideas section loses its editor and a reporter

My former Boston Phoenix colleague Steve Heuser, who has edited The Boston Globe’s Ideas section for the past three years, is headed for Politico. I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that Steve worked closely with Politico executive editor Peter Canellos when Canellos was at the Globe.

Also leaving: Ideas reporter Leon Neyfakh, who’s headed for Slate.

Here’s Globe editorial-page editor Ellen Clegg’s memo to the staff, which a kind soul passed along a little while ago.

Dear colleagues,

Ideas editor Steve Heuser, who has been a valued colleague for 14 years and who has led the section since 2011, is leaving the Globe in January for Politico, where he’ll serve as the editor of a new project called The Agenda.

During his time here, he has distinguished himself as an editor and as a reporter in a number of departments. He edited the Globe’s Pulitzer-winning science coverage, served as an award-winning biotechnology reporter, and edited our coverage of higher education, medicine, and the environment. He started at the Globe as New England editor, and in 2005 covered the funeral of John Paul II and the papal election in Rome.

In Ideas, Steve’s discerning eye for narrative and his vision for the section leaves a strong foundation, and we intend to build on that in 2015. The section has been an important part of the Boston Sunday Globe for 12 years, and will continue to be a showcase for coverage of new thinking in policy, science, the social sciences, and the humanities as we move forward.

In the meantime, the section is in the great hands of Amanda Katz, Ideas’ talented deputy editor, who will lead it during the transition.

Finally, one more update: As many of you know, in November, Ideas reporter Leon Neyfakh notified us that he will leave the Globe for an exciting new opportunity at Slate. His last day is Friday.

Searches are under way to fill both vacancies.

Ellen Clegg

Media Matters whacks Sununu over Keystone column

John Sununu

John Sununu

The liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America has resurrected an old charge: that former Republican senator John Sununu Jr. is using his Boston Globe column to advance the interests of a lobbying firm he advises.

In this case, writes Eric Hananoki, the Washington firm of Akin Gump, with which Sununu has a relationship, has received at least $90,000 from a company that would be involved in building the Keystone pipeline — and on Thursday the Globe posted a full-throated defense of Keystone by Sununu, complete with crocodile tears for Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu. The Akin Gump connection is not disclosed.

When I looked into Sununu’s relationship with Akin Gump in 2012, then-editorial page editor Peter Canellos assured me that the former senator’s ties to the lobbying group were tangential enough that they did not rise to the level of a conflict. And Media Matters’ own report at the time made it clear that the situation was ambiguous. (On Akin Gump’s website Sununu is listed as an “Adjunct Senior Policy Advisor.”) Still, on a certain level what’s good for Akin Gump is good for John Sununu.

But as I wrote at the time, the larger question is why the Globe would hand over precious op-ed space to a partisan hack like Sununu. It’s still a good question. I hope it’s something Canellos’ interim successor, Ellen Clegg, is giving some thought to.

Whom will the Globe endorse for governor?

Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 10.03.43 AMSometime this evening, I imagine, we’ll learn whom The Boston Globe has endorsed for governor. So today we can play a parlor game and try to figure out the choice.

I thought Martha Coakley’s chances improved when challenger Seth Moulton beat incumbent John Tierney in the Democratic primary for the Sixth Congressional District. Why? Because the Globe surely would have endorsed moderate Republican Richard Tisei over the ethically tarnished Tierney, as it did two years ago, thus making it easier to endorse a Democrat for governor. But the Globe seems certain to choose Moulton, a liberal war hero whom it has already endorsed once this year, over Tisei. (That may come tonight as well.)

Today, though, came the Globe’s endorsement of Patricia Saint Aubin, a Republican who’s challenging incumbent state auditor Suzanne Bump, a Democrat. The folks who run the Globe’s liberal editorial pages generally like to endorse one high-profile Republican. Is Saint Aubin high-profile enough that the gubernatorial nod will now go to Coakley?

Another wild card: longtime editorial-page editor Peter Canellos recently left, and is now the number-three editor at Politico. Taking his place on an interim basis is Ellen Clegg, a veteran Globe editor and until recently the paper’s spokeswoman. She doesn’t get to make the final call (that would be owner-publisher John Henry), but hers is an important voice.

One thing we can be fairly sure of is that the Globe’s most recent poll, showing Baker with an unexpected nine-point lead, will not be a factor.

So … whom do I think the Globe will endorse? I think it will be Baker. He’s liberal on social issues, reasonably moderate on most other issues and could be seen as a counterweight to the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature. (I’m trying to channel the Globe’s editorial board, not reveal my own choice.)

We’ll know tonight whether I’m right or wrong. And what do you think? Please post a comment here or on Facebook.

Ellen Clegg replaces Peter Canellos at The Boston Globe

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 2.25.38 PM

Peter Canellos

Boston Globe editorial-page editor Peter Canellos, a former metro editor and Washington bureau chief for the paper, is leaving. According to a press release issued earlier today, Canellos will depart after 26 years at the Globe. He is also an alumnus of The Boston Phoenix.

Canellos will be replaced on an interim basis by Ellen Clegg, a former newsroom editor who is currently executive director of communication and president of the Boston Globe Foundation.

Here is Globe reporter Beth Healy’s story on Canellos’ departure.

The timing is especially interesting given that we are in the midst of endorsement season. Though the Globe is a staunchly liberal paper, the opinion pages have shown a penchant over the years for endorsing the occasional moderate Republican. Already I’ve heard speculation that the Globe might endorse Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker over Democrat Martha Coakley. Presumably the paper’s owner/publisher, John Henry, will have the final word.

Canellos has long had a reputation for being one of the more cerebral journalists at 135 Morrissey Blvd. He oversaw the Sunday Ideas section as well as the opinion pages. In my dealings with him over the years I have always found him to be decent and thoughtful.

According to Craig Douglas of the Boston Business Journal, Canellos took an employee-buyout offer made earlier this summer. Also leaving, Douglas reports, is Kyle Alspach, a tech reporter for the Globe’s innovation site, BetaBoston. Alspach is going to work in a national position for Streetwise Media, which publishes the local site BostInno and which shares a common owner with the BBJ.

Here is an email from Canellos to the staff, a copy of which I obtained earlier today:

It’s been more than 26 years since I walked into the Globe newsroom to meet the then-Metro editor, our own David Scharfenberg’s brilliant father, Kirk. At the time, I could barely envision the breathtaking array of adventures to come. Now, more than half my life later, I will finish my Globe career as editorial page editor. It’s a perfect time, personally and professionally, to pursue exciting new opportunities. But it’s a tribute to all of you that it took me so long to prepare for another chapter.

At a time like this, it’s natural to think of all the editors, starting with the never-forgotten Kirk, who nurtured and encouraged me. There are too many to name, but all are in my thoughts. For a long time, though, I’ve had the honor of being an editor myself. And my own strength and inspiration, day in and day out, has come from the writers and fellow editors with whom I’ve worked over the past 15 years. During that time, I’ve had the unique privilege of holding three entirely different portfolios, from Metro to the Washington bureau to the opinion pages. And I owe all my satisfaction to the stimulating interactions with colleagues in all three departments.

Over the years, I’ve urged many Globe writers to consider doing stints as editors, on these grounds: It gives you a chance to look at the journalistic endeavor with fresh eyes; and it turns what can feel like a solitary and sometimes nerve-wracking process of creating great journalism into a truly collaborative experience.

Now, looking back over the years, it’s all those collaborations that I remember. I can see the people more clearly than the stories. All those days and nights talking through ideas, matching wits behind the keyboard, and then nervously watching the product take shape were meaningful because of the sense of shared creation.

Those stories live on, but so too do the relationships. Having shifted seats a few times, I’ve learned that the great reward at the end of any editing tenure is that colleagues can finally become friends. The breaking of the professional bond is only the start of an even more rewarding personal one. So it was when I left my previous two posts. So it will be again. I can only say how grateful I have been for these opportunities, and how happy I am in knowing — without any doubt — that while the work may end, the friendships will continue to grow. Thank you,

Peter

And here is the Globe’s press release announcing Canellos’ departure and Clegg’s new responsibilities:

Boston (September 15, 2014) – Boston Globe Media Partners today announced a change in leadership of its editorial and opinion pages. Peter Canellos is leaving his job as editorial page editor after five years in the role and 26 years at the Globe.

“It’s been more than 26 years since I walked into the Globe newsroom to meet the then-Metro editor, our own David Scharfenberg’s brilliant father, Kirk. At the time, I could barely envision the breathtaking array of adventures to come,” Canellos said. “Now, more than half my life later, I will finish my Globe career as editorial page editor. It’s a perfect time, personally and professionally, to pursue exciting new opportunities.”

Canellos was responsible for the paper’s editorial and op-ed pages, and Sunday Ideas section. As the head of the editorial board, he has played the leading role in crafting the paper’s positions on local, national, and foreign issues. During his tenure as editorial page editor, two writers were named finalists for the Pulitzer Prize: in 2013, columnist Juliette Kayyem was nominated as finalist for commentary, and this year deputy managing editor Dante Ramos was named a finalist for editorial writing.

“Peter is a singular talent, and we are extraordinarily thankful for the years he devoted to the Globe,” said John Henry, Globe owner and publisher. “He is a master storyteller, deep thinker and adept communicator.”

Ellen Clegg, who spent 30 years in the Globe’s newsroom and is now executive director of communication and president of the Boston Globe Foundation, will serve as interim editorial page editor. In the newsroom, she served as deputy managing editor for news operations; deputy managing editor for the Boston Sunday Globe; assistant managing editor for regional news; city editor, and specialist editor, where she oversaw reporting on health and science, religion, education, and ideas. In between stints at the Globe, she was a science writer at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. She is the author of “ChemoBrain,” which was named consumer health book of the year by the American Journal of Nursing, and co-author of “The Alzheimer’s Solution.”

Henry has pledged that the Globe will continue to challenge convention and rethink the presentation of its opinion and editorial pages for the digital age.

“Our content, whether news, sports, entertainment or editorial, must be presented in formats that engage the broadest range of readers, wherever they are in the world and however they are reading the Globe,” said Henry.

Prior to becoming editorial page editor, Canellos was chief of the Globe’s Washington bureau, where he led the Globe’s bureau in its coverage of the 2004 and 2008 presidential campaigns and the insurgency in Iraq, among many other major issues. During his tenure the Globe’s bureau won numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting.

In 2011, Canellos won a distinguished writing award from the American Society of News Editors.

Canellos also oversaw the development of the Globe’s best-selling biography “Last Lion: The Fall and Rise of Ted Kennedy,” which reached number seven on the New York Times best-seller list.

He began working for the Globe in 1988, covering housing and urban affairs.

From 1999 to 2003, he was assistant managing editor for local news, overseeing all news coverage of the city and the region.